Cecil, the Lion King of Rhodesia; or, speak loudly and carry a large prick

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight, as soundly as ever. Meanwhile, in the imperial center, the mighty imperial center, the First World gets to have another of its Problems: the Lion, the Dentist, and the Bitchfest. Let’s get to the heart of this darkness:

1) Walter Palmer is an asshat. He’s one of these gigantic swinging schlongs (psychopaths, really) who violently desecrate beloved wildlife for the purpose of desecrating it and ostentatiously proving their own manhood. He has to show that he’s the real alpha male chimp around here. Baiting Cecil out of his protected wildlife reserve and then very slowly and mercilessly killing him was Dr. Palmer’s preferred method of pen15 en1argement.

1a) Teddy Roosevelt wasn’t much better, even though he redeemed himself by shepherding much-needed political reforms into law as President. He was the premier object lesson of the Gilded Age about men who doubted their own masculinity and overcompensated by gratuitously slaughtering big game that they had no plans to eat. This was not admirable behavior. It was sick. TR was gaslighting everyone, notably including himself, by wasting meat by the ton while his countrymen starved (as did the right British subjects of the countries where he shot the really cool stuff). This was how important it was to a toff with a troubled medical history to feel all bully and shit.

1b) We’re deep into a new Gilded Age. When’s the next flight leaving for Harare, old boy?

2) The mob that has been ginned up against Walter Palmer is no hardly any more morally upright than Palmer himself. The retributive anger that they’re showing is dangerous. It’s incompatible with republican self-government. It’s the kind of thing that must be neutralized by the judiciary. Jefferson, Madison, Franklin: y’all pray for us, please? We’re on the skids.

3) The United States, it turns out, has an extradition treaty with Zimbabwe. We know this because the animal rights lynch mob is demanding its use to extradite Palmer back to Zimbabwe for trial. The United States has a number of extradition treaties that it should unilaterally abrogate on grounds of serious breaches of due process in the counterparty country. (A number of other countries have equally compelling cause to abrogate their extradition treaties with the US.) When I think of countries to which the US government should absolutely refuse to extradite suspects, I usually think of obvious cases like Japan, but come to think of it, Zimbabwe is a clear-cut case, too. Its judiciary, one of the most principled and courageous in Africa, has been under siege by the Mugabe government for something like a decade. Unlike Japan, whose judiciary is openly biased against defendants, the trouble with Zimbabwe’s due process of law is largely extrinsic to the courts. Unfortunately, the dedication of so many Zimbabwean judges to the rule of law is a moot point when Mugabe and his henchmen find workarounds. He has some bad people in his pocket on the police force, for example, and the courts do not have sufficient marshals to hound these goons into submission. Mugabe is in a running war of attrition against the old-liners of the judiciary, and there are no assurances that the good judges will win. It’s bad.

Western governments simply should not be extraditing suspects to Zimbabwe until its judiciary has fully reasserted itself as an independent, coequal branch of the government, in accordance with the Zimbabwean constitution. Zimbabwe is a Commonwealth country nominally operating under a close derivative of English Common Law. If its courts were in fact sovereign over the judicial process and able to beat back political interference by the executive, Zimbabwe would be a much better country with which to honor an extradition treaty than Japan, whose courts are a medieval nightmare. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

3a) Every dipshit with a soft spot for animals is now clamoring for the full weight of the Zimbabwean carceral state to be brought down on Walter Palmer. It’s bad enough when misguided elements on the left demand that the American carceral state be used to punish those who have victimized them, whether with actual crimes or with felony butthurt. This time, they’re allying themselves with a judiciary that isn’t just corrupt, brutal, and dysfunctional in violation of its own stated principles, but with one that is best known for being under siege by one of the most notorious strongmen in Africa.

Yes, Palmer appears to have violated Zimbabwean law by baiting and poaching a lion. IANAL, but it sounds about right. His failure to promptly put Cecil down after wounding him with an arrow would have constituted animal cruelty in the United States (maybe we still have states so backwards to allow such a thing), and in any event, it was an unethical hunting practice. As was the entire fucking hunt. But all of this is immaterial to the question of whether or not Palmer should be extradited. This is a highly politicized case, and Zimbabwe’s legal system was already extremely politicized thanks to Robert Mugabe’s chronic executive interference prior to this incident of lion poaching. We’re dealing with a country whose judiciary is weakened, although still upstanding enough to tell Mugabe to go piss up a rope when he butts in, and police and prosecutorial services that are significantly more politicized and arbitrary than the courts. We’re also, I have to assume, considering sending a US citizen to a prison system that is too dysfunctional and politicized to maintain adequate living conditions and protections for human rights. (The Zimbabwean police have a poor human rights reputation, especially for the mistreatment of political dissidents.)

The proper message for US authorities to send to their Zimbabwean counterparts is that they will not extradite US citizens until the latter have their house in order. Zimbabwe is free to reciprocally abrogate the extradition treaty to put leverage on the United States to improve its own police, prosecutors, courts, and prisons, and despite what might look like the weird hypocrisy of such a stance, it would be appropriate. The People’s Republic of China (sic) is no less objectively correct in its criticisms of the US criminal justice (sic) system just because its own system is a due process clusterfuck.

3b) None of these animal rights avengers said a word in defense of the Zimbabwean judiciary, one of the most upstanding in Africa, in its ongoing efforts to beat back usurpation of its authority by Mugabe and his henchmen. It was only after hearing about a fucking lion-poaching stunt that they developed a sudden interest in the legal sovereignty and dignity of Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe could have had his security services jail the entire Supreme Court in a Tazmamart-style incommunicado hellhole and most of them still wouldn’t have said a word about how, yeah, that’s not cool.

They’d be putting in a good word for any head-in-a-bag drug Mexican drug gang offering to do a Juarez slice-and-dice on Dr. Palmer. Because he baited and poached a lion and was too, I don’t know, chickenshit or cruel or idiotic to put it down in a timely fashion after seriously wounding it. They’d abet ISIS if it offered to immolate Palmer in a cage. There is no tenth-circle-of-hell gang of psychopaths whose violence they wouldn’t condone if it were directed against this dentist for mistreating a lion.

They’ve become the very monster that they want to slay.

4) At the opposite political extreme, Western libertarians have gone so far as to praise the Zimbabwean government for initially not appearing to give a shit about this story of lion-poaching. This is embarrassing, if they’re self-aware enough for embarrassment. In addition to his attacks on due process of law and judicial independence, Robert Mugabe is notorious for implementing one of the most botched land redistribution schemes since Stalin’s forced collectivization of Ukrainian agriculture. Pursuant to his prime directive of Fuck Whitey, Mugabe appropriated the large ranches of the white minority (native-born Zimbabwean citizens, in large part) and redistributed to black peasants as smallholdings. The technical and managerial brain trust that had kept the country’s agriculture viable flew the coop, much of it deciding to become a more valued constituency of Whitey as aspiring Australians. It’s like moving from Ferg-Flor to outermost St. Charles County, but across an ocean. And in fairness, it wasn’t as crazy as the white flight out of St. Louis County has often been: St. Louis County is one of the most integrated in the United States, while Mugabe really is a racist demagogic wackjob.

Mugabe’s land tenure reform fuckup is one of the most powerful arguments for libertarian policy in recent decades. Libertarians approving of his officials for asking “what lion?” is like saying that, well, yes, Stalin was a terrible economic manager with a lengthy history of human rights violations, but at least he didn’t give a shit about the poaching of Siberian tigers.

5) Not giving a shit about wildlife poaching is not the same thing as giving a shit about the welfare of Africans. Cracker please. Robert Mugabe has ruined Zimbabwe’s economy; see #4 for an example. Most of Africa’s governments (arguably all of them south of the Sahara) simultaneously fail to provide adequate services for their constituents and to protect endangered wildlife against poaching and habitat destruction. There are better governments and worse ones in these areas, but by most measures, Zimbabwe’s is one of the worst at the former and worse than the median at the latter. Maybe it’s getting more competent and law-abiding, since it hasn’t made top-of-the-fold headlines in the international press lately, but it sounds like it’s still a clusterfuck, and that the governments of Rwanda and Nigeria, for example, are doing at least somewhat better jobs at not screwing the pooch. Zimbabwe is now in the unusual position of being in the gerontocratic grip of a tragically failed strongman who once promised reform. Much of Africa at least has younger, more thoughtful strongmen (e.g., Paul Kagame). Nigeria has proliferating freedom of speech, a vigorous free press, and officials and political candidates who have no compunction about telling off incompetent or corrupt colleagues.

The animal welfare crowd in the West instead wants this tragic octogenarian and his coterie of unaccountable gunpoint thieves to punish one of its dentists for abusing and killing a lion. This spat isn’t about Africa, and it isn’t even about Cecil. It’s about scapegoating a fuckhead who had already been in trouble with game authorities in the US for poaching a bear. It’s about feeling good because one cares about cute animals that savagely maul wildebeest and start eating them while they’re still alive when they aren’t killing and eating cubs of their own species that were sired by sexual competitors that they also killed. Wow Much hakuna Many matata. #TheMoreYouKnow

Derp in the Conradian jungle with that royal Belgian psychopath with the huge head; better run through it, boy. Derp in the fog-kissed highlands of Lake Victoria. Derp in the hardscrabble upcountry of Abyssinia. Derp on the savannahs of Rhodesia. Derp upon the snows of Kilimanjaro, if the snows still abide in our overheated age.

I bless the rains.

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